Sony Xperia P - introduction
The Xperia P is a middle sibling of Sony’s NXT series phones. Above it sits the Xperia S, flaunting its native HD screen and 32GB storage. Beneath the P is the cheaper, more streetwise Xperia U with its garish coloured LEDs and the entry-level Xperia Sola, which is or isn’t officially part of this range depending on which page of Sony’s website you look at. But where does this leave our P protagonist? Sitting pretty on the benefits-of-both throne or perched awkwardly of the fence of indifference? Let’s find out.
Sony Xperia P – design
Like its big brother and smaller sister, the Xperia P is immediately recognisable by the opinion-splitting design feature that is a clear plastic panel at the base of the phone, which incorporates the icons for the back, home and menu buttons. Like it or not as a form, its function is fundamentally flawed by the fact that the lights for them only come on once touched, then go out again. We’d prefer they were motion-activated so that you could find the button you needed in a dark room. At least on the P, touching the actual icon activates the button; on the Xperia S you have to touch above it.
Sony Xperia P – build and battery
This is a solid hunk of phone. It has an aluminium unibody design: only 10.5mm thick, but it forces a microSIM slot on to the side of the phone and means no battery access. Wound up to cruising speed the Xperia P will stretch to about a day and a bit, or three to four hours streaming video with all the screen wizardry turned on. The former is an improvement on the big-gunned Xperia S; the latter about the same. Both charge via USB, giving you various sources by which you might steal some power during the day.
Sony Xperia P - power
Powering the P is a dual-core 1GHz processor, and it fairly trucks along. Side-by-side with the 1.5GHz Xperia S there’s apparently no difference opening and closing apps, loading webpages and such like. Videos begin playing quicker on the S, and apps install marginally faster, but to call the P ‘slower’ would be disingenuous. Mind you, the P does lack the Playstation-certified branding of the S, no doubt to do with processing oomph. All Xperia’s currently ship with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, though an Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade is due any day.
Sony Xperia P - multimedia
Having ditched its Ericsson co-branding, Sony is keen to drive home its core brands. The Xperia’s box is covered in Sony trademarks, like Bravia Engine, Exmor R photo processing, WhiteMagic… OK, we hadn’t heard of the last one until recently either. It’s a fourth pixel system for the screen, giving it impressive clarity in bright conditions – and it’s something that the S doesn’t have. The 4in, 950x540 screen is super-crisp, helped by Sony’s classy OS skin. In fact, the P is a multimedia marvel. Photos are up there with smartphone luminaries, and movie-watching is an enjoyable experience. Mind you, there’s no SD card slot – the built-in 16GB is your lot.
Sony Xperia P - connectivity
An HDMI-out port and NFC spearhead the Xperia P’s connectivity options, though it will also send media to a DLNA-ready TV or network receiver via the ‘Play On’ feature. Sony has included four coloured NFC tags in the box, to which you can assign profiles. One in the shed, for example, could set your phone to ‘loud’ or ‘silent’ depending on how much you want to be bothered. Predictably enough, there’s no mini-HDMI cable in the box though perhaps we should just be thankful that it’s an industry-standard connector and not one of Sony’s infamous proprietary ports.
Sony Xperia P - verdict
The Xperia P is well-built, decently specced and, because of the size of the screen and the placement of the three front-mounted buttons, the most ergonomic of the Xperias. A viable mid-price alternative to the S then? Well, no. Because the S is only a bit more expensive. It’d take a pragmatic geek indeed to eschew double the storage, bigger screen and faster processor for the sake of ergonomics and the price of a night out.